How Do I Know When It’s Time to Clean My Swimming Pool Filter?

Q. How do I know when it’s time to clean my swimming pool filter?

A. When a brand new filter, filter elements, or sand is installed on a pool and the system is first started up, you should take note of the pressure gage at the top of the filter and make note of that number. When the filter pressure rises more than 10 lbs. above that number it is time to backwash or clean your filters. Since the hydraulics of every pool are different, that starting number will be different on every pool.

After you have cleaned or backwashed the filters the pressure gage should read at it’s original starting position. You may find that your filters need to be cleaned as often as once a week, or sometimes as little as once a year, depending on the type of filter, water, climate, etc. The pressure gage should determine the amount of time between cleanings, not the calendar. If you have to clean your filters too often (more than once a week), it’s likely time to replace your filter media entirely. 

Of course our advice is particularly gaged for swimming pool owners along the Wasatch Front in Utah. 

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Swimming Pool Chemicals: Getting to Know Chlorine

In our last post about pool chemicals we talked about how chlorine is the most common pool disinfectant. It’s also a common household product (read: bleach, although it’s more diluted than what you would be adding to your Utah swimming pool). So what should you know about chlorine?

Chlorine is typically prepared in liquid, powder or tablet form (though some professionals use gaseous chlorine), and it can be added to the water anywhere in the cycle. Chlorine comes in different strengths, and all chlorines are definitely not created equal. Pool experts generally recommend adding it just after the filtering process, and specifically after the heater here in Utah (since for the most part, all pools in Utah tend to have heaters, specifically up here along the colder part of the Salt Lake Valley). You don’t want to be flowing highly chlorinated water through the pool equipment, especially your heater. One way some pool owners add chlorine to their pools is through the skimmer boxes, which isn’t very safe because the chlorine tends to be too concentrated in those areas.

One problem with hypochlorous acid is that it’s not particularly stable. It can degrade when exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun, which of course all pools are subject to, and chlorine may combine with other chemicals to form new compounds. Pool chlorine tablets often include a stabilizing agent, such as cyanuric acid, that reacts with the chlorine to form a more stable compound that does not degrade as easily when exposed to ultraviolet light. You should be testing your pool, at least at the beginning of the summer, to make sure your cyanuric acid level is the right level (less than 100 parts per million and greater than 30 parts per a million according to the Health Department).

Even with a stabilizing agent, hypochlorous acid may combine with other chemicals, forming compounds that are not very effective sanitizers. For example, hypochlorous acid may combine with ammonia, found in urine, among other things, to produce various chloramines. Not only are chloramines poor sanitizers, but they can actually irritate the skin and eyes and have an unpleasant odor. The distinctive smell and eye irritation associated with swimming pools are actually due to chloramines, not ordinary hypochlorous acid — a strong smell usually means there is too little free chlorine (hypochlorous acid), rather than too much. To get rid of chloramines, you have to shock treat the pool, which is to say, to add an unusually strong dose of chemicals to clear out organic matter and unhelpful chemical compounds.

Chlorine also affects the overall pH balance of the pool, and also is effected by the overall pH balance of the pool. As overall pH rises, chlorine is slowed down and is slower to kill bacteria.  And as pH lowers beyond 7.5, the chlorine effectiveness speeds up killing bacteria faster, but also becoming unstable where it is “spent” more quickly.

And that, my friends, is how chlorine works in your swimming pool.

*Thanks to HowStuffWorks “Pool Chemicals” for help in writing this article.

How To Care For Your Swimming Pool Cover With The Winter Snow

Taken in Megeve, France

Image via Wikipedia

A few handy tips for caring for your automatic swimming pool cover in the Utah winter months. You’re welcome.

  • Keep water levels at the proper level in the swimming pool. This is essential to the survival of the automatic swimming pool cover in the winter snow. The water level of your pool in the winter should be the same as it is in the summer: halfway up the skimmer box (the square opening on the side of the pool where there’s a “flapper” and water goes in) which is usually halfway up the tile. The water under the cover provides the support for the snow on top of the cover. If the water level drops too low in the pool, there is nothing to support the heavy snow on top of the cover, which could result in a torn cover, broken cover tracks, or even broken coping- each of which is a big mess and a costly repair come time for spring opening.
  • Pump water off your automatic pool cover: When it gets very cold outside, the top few inches of water in the pool will freeze which will provide enough support for an enormous amount of snow (we’re talking lot’s of feet here). When the weather warms up a little bit and the snow on top of the cover melts, the water underneath the cover is also melting. Even though it’s still cold outside, it’s important to pump the water on top of the cover off so that next time it snows you’ll be starting fresh again. Luckily this is a service that can be taken care of when we’re visiting for your weekly route pool maintenance.
  • Check water level of pool regularly. It’s important to regularly check the water level in the pool, even if the pool has no known leaks. The water level can become low because heavy snow on top of the cover will push down and force water up and out of the pool into the cover box (where the cover mechanisms are).
  • Pool leaks can occur in the winter months. As you head into the winter months and get your pool winterized, you may not know that you already have a leak in your swimming pool, even though you haven’t noticed anything all summer. In the summer months, because your swimming pool is being regularly used, it’s easy to pass off a small leak as either “splash out” or “drag out” due to evaporation. A small leak in the winter time left unchecked can cause the problems listed above. Also, small leaks can form in the winter, even if the pool was winterized properly. The pool can crack in the winter just as easily as it does in the summer. Hairline cracks in the plaster that maybe weren’t leaking previously, may open up just enough to cause small leaks.